Reviews'A treat – scholarly, incisive and moving, with brilliantly surprising readings of Lear's work'.
Jenny Uglow, author of Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense
'A wonderfully engaging and revealing book, one that talks a great deal of sense about nonsense (without talking too much sense). The imaginative incisiveness of Williams's reading – and the deftness of his writing – make this the best study of Lear's poetry we have.'
Matthew Bevis, University of Oxford
Edward Lear wrote a well-known autobiographical poem that begins ‘How pleasant to know Mr Lear!’ But how well do we really know him? On the one hand he is, in John Ashbery’s words, ‘one of the most popular poets who ever lived’; on the other hand he has often been overlooked or marginalized by scholars and in literary histories. James Williams’s account, the first book-length critical study of the poet since the 1980s, sets out to re-introduce Lear and to accord him his proper place: as a major Victorian figure of continuing appeal and relevance, and especially as a poet of beauty, comedy, and profound ingenuity. Williams approaches Lear’s work thematically, tracing some of its most fundamental subjects and situations. Grounded in attentive close readings, Williams also connects Lear’s nonsense with his various other creative endeavours: as a zoological illustrator and landscape painter, a travel writer, and a prolific diarist and correspondent.
‘This is a study whose significance for the field belies its physical size, standing not only as the best account of Lear’s poetry yet published, but as a work which ought to reorient our sense of Lear’s place in the history of nineteenth-century poetry. […] Williams’s patient explication of the truth it speaks about both sense and nonsense should be regarded as a foundational articulation of Lear’s poetic achievement.'
Benjamin Westwood, The Review of English Studies